What does it mean to put caribou knowledge into an ecosystem context?
Keywords:caribou, climate, succession, wildfire, Pleistocene, boreal forest, taiga, tundra, conservation, Rangifer tarandus
AbstractEcosystems are envisioned as integrated, complex systems with both living and non-living components, that are linked through processes of energy flow and nutrient cycling (Bowen, 1971; Ricklefs, 1979). The ecosystem approach seeks to describe the components of this system, the pathways through which energy and nutrients move, and the processes that govern that movement. The goal is a better understanding of the role or effect of each component (abiotic or biotic) within the system. Theorerically, the more we know, the better we can predict the future behaviour of the ecosystem and therefore manage the system on whatever sustainable basis we deem appropriate. Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) presently inhabit two ecosystems, tundra (arctic and alpine) and taiga (or boreal forest), both characterized by relatively low productivity and diversity (Bowen, 1971; Bliss, 1981; Bonan, 1992a). As increased anthropogenic impacts are expected in these ecosystems through the next century, our ability to ensure the continued survival of caribou requires that we pay increasing attention to the processes that drive these systems. In this endeavour, an awareness of the effects of both spatial and temporal scale, in both ecosystem processes and our research programs to understand those processes, is critical.
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